Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Deeper Understanding of Grace

Leslie Basham: When Vickey Boozman's husband died, she needed some help.

Vickey Boozman: I was very fortunate that my children took turns. They moved in with me for about two months, and my kids would come in and say, “Mom, what's on the schedule today?” That was their way of saying we need to get up and about and get on with life, and that was very helpful to me .

Then there came the time when I was saying to them, “It's time for you to go home. It's time for you to get back to normal with your families, and God and I are going to be able to walk through this thing. He's gonna take me through it.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 27th. Last week, we began listening to an interview Nancy recorded in 2006 with two widows, Vickey Booman and Kathy Ferguson. They were very hopeful about God's provision but very honest about their pain. Let's get back to that conversation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I'm thinking of that verse in Isaiah 45, verse 3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness,” God says, so , “that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Treasures of darkness—you don't think of darkness as being the place where you want to be or are eager to be. That's a picture of the aloneness, and yet He says, in that place, God calls you by name. There's a presence there that makes that darkness a place where you find treasure, and the treasure is Christ.

Kathy Ferguson: I grew up in the church culture, and some of what I had to begin to do is kind of add some more complete meaning to some Bible words . Those are some of those treasures, like the word grace. When it talks about grace being God giving us the strength to do something we cannot do ourselves, so a lot of these, really, Bible language I knew began to be some of those treasures. I found that God was going to give me the ability to do something I could not do, and that would be, be a widow with three children.

Even “faith” took on some new meaning to me that it wasn't just trusting God to do the impossible. It was really a trusting God when He doesn't make sense. It just added more completion to words I already was aware of. “Hope”—my husband had a broadcast ministry . The tittle of it was, Hope for Today.

Really, my present was so good, I didn't think much about hope, but that also became a great word that meant a lot to me in that dark place about hope. I see people now—evangelism takes on a new meaning because people don't have hope. So a lot of treasures in dark places.

Vickey: Loneliness, for sure, is my number one dark place, and I go in and out of it. It's interesting. Because of the job that my husband had, he touched a whole lot of lives, and people around our state have sought to honor his memory .

I've been invited numerous times to go and receive plaques for him, to be there when they planted a tree in his honor, to be there when they named a fitness center after him, to be there when they put his name on the college of public health. These are all wonderful tributes to this man, but they're actually a glory to our Lord because what they're doing is honoring the Jesus that they saw in Fay Boozman. But what it does to Vickey is to remind her of her loneliness again.

Nancy: Fay's not here.

Vickey: Yes, because the only reason I'm there is because he's not here. I'm still in and out a whole lot of loneliness. I'll get one of these calls—I mean, I went just this last month to two different things, and again, it's been a year, which is pretty amazing. I get excited by the fact that someone else remembers my husband and his life. That's very heart touching, but then at the same time, all of a sudden, I get emotional because of the loneliness.

God in His faithfulness when you're in the depths of—what I call depths of despair—I've found that I can truly call out, and, I mean, He's right there. Just as my tears start, immediately, when I call out, they will shut off immediately if I can within myself get my head on straight to remember, just call on Jesus. Don't allow yourself to wallow down here in this pit. Just call out, and when I do, He removes that for me immediately.

Nancy: So what's the balance between being able to appropriately experience the loss, shed the tears, feel the grief, and what you called wallowing in it? We've got some widows listening, some people who've experienced unexpected loss or deep disappointment. Would we say to them that if you call out to Jesus, He just shuts down your tears, and you don't feel the pain anymore?

Vickey: No!

Nancy: I know that's not what you're saying.

Vickey: No, no.

Nancy: So how do you in your own heart . . .

Vickey: He's shutting off tears because—at least I believe, that's because that's what I've asked Him to do because I'm trying to move on from that emotional state. There's nothing wrong with emotions. I'm not saying that, but I can tell within myself when I'm pulling myself lower . . .

Kathy: . . . into a pit.

Vickey: Yes, than I should be going because you can grieve without doing that. Early on, you probably can't, but I've come enough along that I can grieve without becoming so despondant. That's probably the balance. It's alright to grieve. You just don't want to get to where you're saying, “What am I doing here?”

Nancy: Were there times when you felt like you couldn't call out; you couldn't pull yourself up; you were sliding into that despondency, that pit, and felt helpless to do anything about it?

Vickey: It's not—for me, at least—it's not that I couldn't. It's that I wouldn't. I could, but I didn't. I had to learn. I had to learn, and it's a training process that God has just begun to take me through that there's so much more to this Christian life, so many places you can tap in to this pipeline that God has for you that you've missed.

I'm just beginning to learn about those things, and it's kind of like a child who's beginning to walk. They take a step, and then they fall down. They take a step, and they fall down. Then maybe they take two or three, and then they fall down. I'm kind of at the two or three stage. My heart is to get to where I'm walking, and then I'm running with the Lord so that just at the instant that that happens, I'm calling out to Jesus.

Kathy: Vickey, I really like your illustration of the walking and the taking more steps because I really think that's a good picture of grief. You do, it's an incremental kind of thing. I think for me, Nancy, one of the things that brought the greatest comfort was just knowing—and someone helped me very early on—to take peace just in God's presence in my life.

Even though I didn't understand—and our accident was very traumatic. There were a lot of things that we saw and experienced. Visualization was a tough thing for our whole family. Part of getting through that was someone, a very godly person who does a lot of trauma counseling, said, “You need to visualize Christ being with you there.”

Nancy: At that place.

Kathy: At that place, at that milemarker, at that scene, with my children, with all that happened there, and that was a little difficult in the beginning. In time that became easier, and then I began to see His presence with me. Even though my prayers in the early days were just so very—I'd lay across my bed, and they would just be, “Help me, God.” I could not pray much more than that.

Vickey: I still do that many times. I have no words.

Kathy: That makes so much sense, but the Holy Spirit interceeds.

Vickey: Yes, never really understood that till now, and now I do.

Kathy: There's great comfort in those things, and I think it is. I think your illustration about walking is so good because you do. You find yourself taking a couple steps and then more. As I went further along, I had some people that—because there is a time to yield to grief and to, as many people say, lean into it .

That's good, but there is a time that you have to say, “Today is not a day to lean into it.” I had a friend. My friend, Deb, would come over and say, “You gotta get out of bed today, and here's what we're gonna do.” Having someone with that kind of sensitivity and love for you that helps you say today's not a day to do that, and that's rare, I think. It was very helpful for me.

Vickey: I was very fortunate that my children took turns. They moved in with me for about two months, and just like your friend would say, “Well, it's time to get up,” my kids would come in and say, “Well, Mom, what's on the schedule today?” That was their way of saying we need to get up and about and get on with life, and that was very helpful to me .

Then there came the time when I was saying to them, “It's time for you to go home. It's time for you to get back to normal with your families. God and I are going to be able to walk through this thing. He's gonna take me through it.” Now, as soon as they went out the door, I started crying, but I believed in my heart that it was possible. By God's grace, we're beginning to go through that, walk through it.

Nancy: Both of you have three children, young adults. You were not only a wife, but you are a mother. What has been your role as a mother in the lives of your children who have experienced the loss of their dad?

Kathy: I said this publicly just recently with my daughter present—I will say that as I look back on that first year, my kids didn't really have a mom in many ways . The fortunate thing about my kids, they were old enough to really help one another in some ways. But it's also very difficult for a family to grieve together because there's so much concern about pulling the other one down .

After a year, like it or not now, I began to understand more completely, I'm the spiritual leader. I have to continue to provide the leadership that Rick had provided in our home. God gave me a tremendous amount of grace and strength for that because another one of those unwanted roles, but navigating my children through that, Nancy, is very difficult.

I had an adolescent, well, two adolescents and a 23-year-old, so they didn't know how to grieve. I didn't know how to grieve. We had a great support system. My kids were involved with some godly school teachers who really stepped in and did some phenominal things.

Nancy: So there were some other people in their lives as well.

Kathy: Right. You talk about a community of faith, that's when you see how you need everybody hitting on all cylinders to be a part of that when a family goes through that, and that's one of the great things about the church.

Nancy: As it was intended to function.

Kathy: As it was intended to function. It's a great thing.

Nancy: It doesn't really do any good to say, “The church doesn't function,” because that is us, and that's where your church may not be hitting on all cylinders. Most aren't, and none are to the extent that we should be. You're one person. Look around and see where there's a need within the people God has around your life and say, “Lord, what can I do to be part of a community of faith in the lives of those people ?” without necessarily waiting for the whole church to rise up and be what the ideal is.

Kathy: My kids were pastor's kids. So there was a little bit of a delicate balance of some privacy versus—and Vickey, you had the same thing—trying to find the right spot for that was somewhat difficult. I want to do that with a little bit of privacy and dignity along the way. I think it reigned in my children, probably, in a way that kind of slowed down their grief process just a little bit.

Vickey: I don't know that we ever learned how to grieve. I think we just—we're an extremely close family. We laugh together; we play together; we cry together, and we did a whole lot of crying together at the very beginning .

Then as someone had to begin to take the leadership to get the ship rolling again, we'd hit a role reversal. Whereas even though all of my children are adults . . . I think of Kathy with her three children, younger than mine, and I think of other wives with little children. I mean, I just have to sit back and say, “I don't know how they did it.” It had to be God because I was so fortunate that all of my children were married, had families of their own .

When mom was still in shock, still in numbness, my kids just kind of kicked in and took over and made sure that the things got done that needed to be done. They would come to me, and we would talk about decisions that needed to be made. I found myself going to them. I would pick up the telephone and call them and ask them to help me make the decision.

We really did a role reversal because in our normal family life, my husband and I had become their counselor and their friend. All of a sudden, that flip-flopped, and my children were becoming my counselor for me.

Nancy: But isn't that a neat thing, in a way, that you and Fay had been training them and investing in their lives all these years. You were reaping the blesssing in your point of real need of what you had invested in them.

Vickey: Yes, yes, and such a blessing it is in that they all are Christians. They all love the Lord. They're by no means perfect, but they have a heart for God. They are well enough versed in the Word that they could help me make critical decisions. The appreciation I have for the children that God has given me has grown tremendously, the respect I have for them as young adults. They, along with close friends, were a support system that I couldn't have done without.

I had to move. I had to pack. In fact, I had three moves. I had to pack up his office. I had a small place in Little Rock that I had to sell and move from. Families from up in northwest Arkansas took their time to make that trip, that three-and-a-half-hour trip down to move me, from his office, from the place we lived in Little Rock, from our place in Rogers, to a rental place where I am right now. Whenever we get this other house built, I mean, they're on call waiting to help. What a blessing that is!

They're not people from one church. These are people from about 10 or more churches in the community that have just gathered around to say, “We're there to help you. ”

Nancy: Vickey, I can't help but believe, again, that that is one of the blessings and rewards of years and years that you and Fay have served and given and blessed into the lives of others, and you are reaping the benefits of that.

Vickey: I very much am.

Nancy: Now, and I'm thinking about people on the front side of loss who have no clue what's coming. I mean, we don't know what's around the corner, and saying this is one of the reasons it's so important now to be plugged into the life of a local church, to have a community of faith, to have godly relationships. I know people are starved for this today, and something we hear so often from people is, “I just don't have those kinds of relationships. My church doesn't function that way.”

You and Fay, and, Kathy, you and Rick have spent years and years investing in the lives of others  Obviously, a lot of our listeners are not pastors or government officials or their wives, but God has put us all in some sphere of influence. Hearing your stories is a motivation to me, not knowing in my old age or point of extreme need, tomorrow or next month or next year or 30 years from now, what my needs will be. I think one of the things that can protect me from fear and anxiety about the future and how will I be cared for and how will my needs be met, is to say, “Am I investing today in the lives of the people that God has put in my path?”

Vickey: My children and I have said, “How do people go through something like this without the support of, not only the Lord . . . ”

Nancy: . . . but the body of Christ.

Vickey: The body of Christ and all of the families that have ministered in so many ways? My husband was a very giving, serving person. I can just think of numerous ways that he had touched each one of their lives, and because of that, they are endeared to my family and to me. We are very definitely reaping, I believe, from the godly works, the godly deeds that he did in the Spirit of the Lord, again, because he loved people.

Kathy: Being that recipient of that kind of care in a crisis, I've seen this change my heart and my kids' lives. Obviously, we're very church people. We appreciate that, but I find myself more drawn to people that don't have those support systems and recognize now how that feels to be in that place.

I mean, I looked, and Vickey did, too, at thousands of people at a funeral. I stood just this past Monday in a little cemetary with a little Russian mother—there were 11 of us there—that lost her baby. She had no support system. I took a lady from church, and so there were two . We'd never met her before, and I am more drawn, Nancy, to slow down and look for those people that are in those same spots that don't have those hundreds of people there.

I walked away from that situation on Monday—because I think sometimes we can be driven to so much pragmatism when we're in so much ministry. It's right to wonder, “How can I minister to this girl in a deeper, further way?” I need to do that, but the bottom line is, for that moment, at least, being there, representing the face of God to someone at a graveside service of an infant where she has no support. That means a lot to me now, and it wouldn't have before.

But go to an anonymous person and be able to look her in the eyes and jus t tell her, “God sees your tears.” She's just 23. She's immigrated here. She has very little English, and I just—my heart—I would have missed that moment before.

Nancy: You would have missed that person.

Kathy: I would have missed that person, and I'm very grateful for that. I think receiving so much goodness—there's another step to that responsibility that we have to pour that out again. I hope I don't ever lose that desire to pour out what's been poured into me. Not just the love of God and the comfort of God and the hope of God, but all that people have done. There's a responsibility to that.

Leslie: Kathy Ferguson has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the pain of losing a spouse and the comfort available through the body of Christ. We also heard from Vickey Boozman on the pain of losing a husband. You may know someone who'd be encouraged by this conversation. We'll send you the entire interview on CD. We're calling this series, Grace through Loss.

Just make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, and we'll send you the CD along with a helpful booklet called, Promises to Live By. When you're in a valley, you need to remember God's Word and God's promises. This booklet will help with a topical listing of Scriptures. It'll give you comfort and hope whenever you need it.

Ask for Promises to Live By and Grace through Loss when you donate any amount by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959 or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Each of us come to a place where we realize, I am not God, and there are some things I just won't understand. Our guests will describe the mystery of suffering tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.